Is being out of sight increasing isolation?
With home working becoming the increasing norm we ask is being out of sight increasing isolation of employees?
YouGov conducted two online focus groups in June 2020 – one group with those whose offices are based in London, the other with offices based across the UK – in order to find out how employees feel about remote working. Most indicated that, post-coronavirus, they would prefer to continue working from home in one form or another: citing general convenience, benefit to wellbeing, and increased productivity, among other things.
The survey found that nearly two out of five employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic have felt stressed, anxious or experienced mental health difficulties, due to their working situation at some point. The poll also found that one in two people working from home felt isolated and seven out of ten missed social interactions with colleagues. This article considers practical steps employers may want to consider taking to assist employees in working from home from a mental health perspective.
What should employers consider to reduce isolation of remote workers and help their mental health and wellbeing?
Without the luxury of time to put effective measures in place, many employers initially adopted a “make do” mentality whilst waiting for normal office life to resume. Now it is clear that it will be some time before we see a resumption of the normal office life we were all used to (if it ever does resume), employers have been taking further steps to assist employees in what are more permanent arrangements.
Talk to your employees
Working from home can be incredibly isolating, therefore speaking to your employees regularly is important. Think about your structure and how communications can be made and cascaded. Speak to managers or team leaders about how they can interact. Review your online tools and meeting applications to see if they are the best fit for you and your teams, and make sure that your teams and managers are using them to stay in touch. Is online fatigue becoming an issue? Starting with all guns blazing in making regular contact that six months later has now dwindled to the occasional ‘wellbeing’ call? Giving employees time and space out with management and ‘work issues’ is known to be helpful.
In the October edition of People Management, Richard Reid, psychologist argues, ‘It needs to be a person centred approach. Managers need to create the space for people to get in touch with what they are feeling, and they can’t do that if they are busy all the time-so maybe chat informally, organise fewer meetings. You might have mental health first aiders but you still need that glue in between; that’s the bit that’s missing.’
The value of having someone to talk to and a listening ear is perhaps best demonstrated in a recent testimony from a P3 client employee, “Since my employer began to use the services of P3 I have accessed them and, honestly, it has been excellent. The service that Jim and his colleagues provide is so important to our company and other businesses as it allows staff to have an outlet they otherwise wouldn’t have. The service has been invaluable to me as I’ve gone through several issues, both work and personal in the recent past and P3 have been there with support every step of the way. I couldn’t recommend what they do more highly.”
Promote work-life balance
Now that our homes have essentially become our offices, it is very easy for employees to slip into working extended hours. Employees no longer have the commute in the morning to get to work, or the natural break point at the end of the day where they log off and leave the office. Even though we are all well used to the smartphone and picking up emails / phone calls – the loss of the natural breakpoint to leave the office at the end of the day has had an impact on many employees and led to them working extended hours.
Think about talking to your employees about this or investing in training or otherwise cascading advice as to how employees can make sure that they take breaks and switch off at the end of the day and at weekends to the extent that they can. Also make sure that employees are taking breaks through the day. This is important for assisting wellbeing.
Consider individual employees’ needs
Government advice (as of 22 September) to work from home wherever possible, offers two options:
- Supporting working from home until social distancing is relaxed
- Facilitating a return to the workplace in line with COVID-secure workplace guidance when working from home is not possible.
Employers must take an individualised approach and follow steps to allow staff to work from home as much as possible; they need to consider the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the workforce and monitor government guidance. With so much disruption from the pandemic, people’s expectations around work, how they fulfil their role, and how they reconcile work and domestic responsibilities may have changed dramatically. This is an ideal time for employers to think more creatively about effective ways of working, and harness more agile and flexible working practices to meet individuals’ changing expectations. A flexible approach could help employers develop more effective people management practices, resulting in improved productivity.
Promote access to support
If ever there was a time for personal and proactive support to your staff, it is now! Our P3 Business Partners are in regular contact with your people developing trust and relationship and enabling them to have confidential conversations and proactively address their issues. MYP3 app also provides them with a digital means of communication and access 24-7 support in crisis situations.
About P3 Business Care
P3 Business Care is a Community Interest Company and social enterprise operating across the UK. Supporting your business on a weekly basis we provide personal and proactive care to your employees working in partnership with the company. We develop trust & relationships so we can identify and address issues before they become crisis, absence, or staff turnover. Read more about our services here